Feeling energetic, vital and balanced depends on your habits and routine in each of FiT’s 5 tenants of optimal health (eating strategy, sleep hygiene, stress management, exercise prescription and self care). Not surprisingly, the strength of our immune system is tied to the balance and harmony of these aspects of our lifestyle as well.
The benefits of regular exercise are well known and, now more than ever is the time to make regular low and moderate intensity exercise a priority. That being said, when choosing what, how much and how hard to push, cumulative stress must factor into the equation. When ‘dosed’ appropriately, the effects of exercise on mental health and overall wellbeing are both scientifically supported and profound. However, these are, as we have all heard, unprecedented times that are taking a toll on all of us. While exercise is a healthy habit, it is also a stress on our system meaning this is NOT the time to engage in multiple HIIT sessions each day and give intermittent fasting a whirl at the same time.
While you, and we, cannot go to the gym these days, our health and sanity pretty much demand that we exercise regularly. Here are some guidelines for you to follow.
- Using a perceived rate of exertion (PRE) scale of 1-10, 75-85% of your physical activity should be in the 2-5 range. If you were exercising regularly before SIP, 15-25% can be in the 6-8 range. Simply, we are not looking to set PRs presently and are instead looking to boost your immune system, enhance mood, and manage stress.
- Getting outdoors where it is safe to do so for walks, runs or bike rides offers the benefits of fresh air, sunlight and exercise so this is a great place to start or continue your efforts to do so, especially as the weather gets nicer. Build low-intensity physical activity (PRE of 2-5) into your daily routine and reap the benefits of improved cardiovascular fitness and decreased stress.
- Consider adding in micro-workouts and short (5-8mins) moderate to high-intensity intervals (PRE of 6-8).
- Random, unscheduled micro workouts could be incorporating walking lunges into your walk every so often, calf raises on the curb, doing air squats at every stop sign or trail merges you encounter, push-ups every time you go up the stairs in your home, crunches every time you come down. When incorporated randomly throughout the day, the added stress is minimal but the total volume of work adds up.
- Your fitness and stress levels on any given day should determine what moderate-to-high intensity is for you. Moderate intensity intervals could be adding a power walk or jog in at regular intervals – ie. walk for one and a half minutes, jog for 30 seconds. To increase the intensity, simply decrease the amount of rest.
- A note about wearables/activity trackers . . . If you have a Fitbit, apple watch, or something similar, that is serving as a positive trigger or reminder to move more, keep using it; however, if it is causing stress or making you feel bad, put it back in the drawer and do your thing.
When combatting stress, the benefits of strength training are many. Given the current state of affairs, one often overlooked benefit that may offer additional motivation in this area is the feeling of strength that is derived from training. Most of us are feeling a lack of control or power to change our present situation and the physical feeling of strength helps with more than musculoskeletal strength but mental fortitude as well.
- As the duration of this mandate has been extended and the end date is unknown, continuing or getting back to strength training as a key part of your routine is recommended.
- If you have children, they are likely spending more time sitting than is typical – get outside with them, incorporate micro-workouts into their day with daily or weekly family challenges, or have them check out Virtual PE with FiT.
- Incorporate FiT’s daily movement breaks into your schedule.
As you consider the suggestions above, we encourage you to think about what habits and rituals have you or can you establish presently that will serve you well in the post-pandemic world? Incorporating regular exercise and developing sustainable habits around physical activity will benefit you in the present and pay dividends in the future.